This is a post from a member of the Freelancers Union community. If you’re interested in sharing your expertise, your story, or some advice you think will help a fellow freelancer out, feel free to send your blog post to us here.

Is there anything that bursts the bubble of the freelance life faster than worrying about how you’re going to pay rent?

I can’t think of anything either.

As a business coach for creative freelancers, I’ve learned that the biggest and most universal obstacle to living a happy freelance life is dealing with fluctuations in work and income. One month you’re flush, the next you’re anxiously wondering where the next project is coming from.

But before you beat a path back to your cubicle, would you be willing to consider that there is a way to manage work and income flow, so you can channel your focus and energy into your creative work?

Great, I knew you’d be up for it!

The secret is learning a few simple ways to fill, and top up, your pipeline with good-quality prospects, who will, at some point or other, convert into clients.

If you’re ready to end the cycle, here are 6 easy to implement, game-changing strategies:

Don’t wait until you’re thirsty to dig your well

Does a typical month look like this for you?

  • Hustling like a fiend for work (any work!) to pay this month’s bills
  • Getting slammed with work (a lot of which you just took for the money)
  • Working all hours to get the projects done and out the door…
  • Hustling like a fiend for more work

If this sounds familiar, the only way to break the cycle is to devote as much time to nurturing prospects, building new relationships and marketing your business as you do working on your projects. Don’t think you have time? Read on…

Become a time management ninja

When I had my babies, I found I had way more to do in way less time. If was to avoid burning out, I needed to get smart with how I spent my time. Here are some simple strategies I adopted and continue to use:

  1. Consistency and maintaining a state of positive expectation are key. I start and end each day at same time, with the expectation I will complete what I need to do.
  2. Start the day with a list of THREE things you want to complete. For me that might be; write my newsletter, do one client session, and send out 3 new business emails.
  3. Dedicate a time-period in which you will check and respond to emails. This simple change ensures you become proactive in your business, rather than reactive (a huge time suck)
  4. Take a lunch break away from your desk. You can do whatever you wish during that time. Read a magazine, check your social media, listen to a podcast, or simply stare into space.
  5. Whenever you find yourself getting distracted, ask yourself “is this action getting me measurably closer to my goals?”. If it’s not, stop doing it.

Always be marketing

If you are struggling in your small businesses or freelance career, I’m willing to bet it’s because you’re not marketing enough. I know, I know, you hate marketing and selling yourself, but marketing doesn’t have to be salesy, pushy or cheesy. It can be just as creative and classy as you and your work are. Not sure how to create content and a plan to connect with your ideal clients? Check out this blog post series I wrote on the topic.

Know what actions you want people to take

Sometimes I’ll ask a client, “what do you want a visitor to do when they come to your website?” and they will answer “check out my work”. OK, but then what? Sign up for your newsletter? Call you in for a meeting? Call you for an estimate?

Take a step back from your business and ask yourself sincerely, what do you want people to do, and how will that action bring money into your business. The next step is getting them to take action.

Tell people what you want them to do next

It’s time to get comfortable with using calls to action. They’re a super fun and effective ways to get your ideal clients to take the next step. Whether you’re creating your website content, a blog post, Facebook or Instagram updates, think about what you’d like the visitor or reader to do next. Do you want them to sign up for your email list, like your Facebook page, schedule a call with you, or download a free offer? Tell them exactly what you want them to do, give them the means to do it (a button or link), and watch your engagement dramatically increase!

Keep a low-hanging fruit list

Building a thriving network of prospects, referral partners, collaborators and resources are essential to building a thriving business or career. Think about how many times you heard:

  • You do ___? I need to work with you!
  • I’d love to take your card
  • My sister needs to talk to you
  • I want to work with you, but I can’t afford it/we don’t have the budget right now

What happens to those people? Do you stay in touch with them, or do they slip through the cracks as you get busy with life? A really easy way to ensure these warm prospects don’t get lost is to create a low hanging fruit list. It’s a simple word document where you list the name and email address of everyone who has every expressed an interest in working with you. I like to add a column for the date and a column for the status of that lead. Check in with your Low Hanging Fruit list every few months, updating the status column as you go. Simple but effective.

I realize I’ve given you a lot to think about, and that doesn’t always translate into taking lots of action, so if you’re really serious about filling your pipeline with higher-quality, better paying clients, sign up for my free guide: How to Find High-Quality Clients and Get Paid What You’re Worth and start making monumental changes in your creative business or career today.

Justine Clay has been helping freelance creative talent build thriving careers for more than 15 years. She began her career in creative representation and, in 2010 Justine launched her coaching business. Working with freelance creative professionals and entrepreneurs of all types, Justine teaches her clients how to position, market and profit from their creative expertise through one-on-one coaching, group programs, talks and workshops.